Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: January 2013
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now. When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Cover Impressions: Gorgeousssss. When I first saw it, I could not get enough. One of my most favorite 2013 covers, that's for sure. Although I think it could be a teensy bit darker, so it could fit the book a lot more, but I still think it's beautiful. :D
Thoughts: Two words: Hell. Yes.
From the moment I first set my eyes on that cover and read that blurb, I needed this book in my hands right then. I had high expectations for it, and they were all met. I can safely say that this is THE ultimate YA retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and I'm not sure any other will top it.
The story follows Alyssa, a girl who can hear the whispers of bugs and flowers ever since she was born, and who's mother is in a mental hospital. She is the descendant of Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and she believes that her family is cursed. Just when Alyssa thinks she might be going crazy, she finds out that Wonderland is real, and it's not the place that Lewis Carroll wrote about. It's dark, twisted and undoubtedly dangerous.
But, determined to get rid of the curse that's been destroying her family for years, Alyssa falls down the rabbit hole and faces a series of tests that she might pass in order to break the curse and fix Alice's mistakes. But Jeb, her best friend and crush from her normal life, accidentally comes along. And Morpheus, the dark and seductive netherling who Alyssa mysteriously remembers from her past, serves as her guide through Wonderland, even though she has no idea if she could trust him.
The Wonderland in this book reminds me of the Wonderland in the 2010 remake of the movie that Disney did, although a lot more gruesome. I freakin' loved it! The characters were all more twisted versions of the characters that we all know, and they were all so on point, like for example the White Rabbit not being a rabbit at all, but a White Rabid. I loved it. There wasn't much of the Cheshire Cat, though, which I'm sad about. :c But we see why that is so eventually in the book.
I adored the writing. I didn't expect it to be in present tense and first person, but I'm definitely glad it is because I prefer books in that style. The descriptions were wonderful, and I felt like I was in Wonderland right alongside Alyssa.
Alyssa herself is a decently likable heroine. I wouldn't call her a Mary Sue because she actually has a backbone, and she also has a personality. In the book we see that the more time she spends in Wonderland, the more she feels as if she belongs there. You'll understand why some time near the end, in about 300 or so pages in.
I guess you could call the romance in this book a love triangle. Jeb is the main love interest, and I liked their romance because they've known each other for years, and we still see them holding back a lot in the book. Jeb is sweet and protective─although sometimes overly so─but I was turned off by him because he was dumb enough to be dating the token high school bitch of the book. Sure, it was just a temporary relationship, but still.
Morpheus is . . . well, I guess he's a love interest, kinda. Alyssa knows him from her past for whatever reason, and he's this book's version of the Caterpillar. He guides Alyssa and I guess sort of helps her, or maybe "help" is too strong a word because he mostly just leaves Alyssa to do things herself. He reminds me of Ariel from the Theatre Illuminata series by Lisa Mantchev. He's dark, mysterious, seductive, cryptic, but has a rare soft side that shows a few times. He didn't annoy me that much, but I quite liked him.
Near the end there's a huge, huge twist that pretty much changes the whole plot. I should've seen it coming, but I really didn't. I loved how everything wrapped up, and there's a little tidbit at the end that hints the possibility of a continuation in the story. This book would work as a standalone and as a series with that ending, but I would love to see it become a series.
All in all, this was the Alice in Wonderland YA retelling that I've been waiting for, and I'm definitely not let down. :D I strongly recommend it for all you guys out there that are suckers for fairytale retellings, as I am.
Billions and billions of thank you's to NetGalley and Abrams for sending me this galley!